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Cortado vs Cappuccino: Exploring the Differences in Taste and Ingredients

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide, with varying types and preparations, including cortado and cappuccino. While both are made from espresso shots and milk, they differ in their preparation, ingredients, taste, and strength.

This article aims to enlighten readers about the differences between the two drinks, give insight into their preparation method, and compare their caloric and nutritional value.

Difference in Ingredients

Cortado originated from Spain and is made from equal portions of espresso shots and steamed milk. It is a small drink, usually served in a glass.

Cappuccino, on the other hand, originated from Italy and includes equal parts espresso shots, steamed milk, and foamed milk. It is a larger drink usually served in a ceramic cup.

Cortados minimal use of milk in comparison to cappuccino makes it a stronger coffee type. Cortado has a rich, creamy taste due to the steamed milk.

Meanwhile, cappuccino’s milk texture is more significant and creamier, connected to the use of both steamed and foamed milk in its preparation.

Strength and Taste Comparison

Cortado is a bittersweet coffee drink, and it’s a great option for people who need a strong coffee kick. Since it utilizes a single shot of espresso, the taste is intense and overpowering.

People who prefer a less robust taste in coffee could opt for cappuccino. Cappuccino’s balanced structure of steamed and frothed milk gives it a milder taste.

It has a creamier texture that adds a pleasant layer to its preparation.

Caloric and Caffeine Comparison

If you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, cortado is an excellent drink to consider. Since it contains minimal milk, it has a low-calorie count.

Cappuccinos, on the other hand, often have higher calories because of the additional foamed milk. Nevertheless, the calorie count in both drinks ultimately depends on the milk and sweetener used.

Regarding caffeine counts, both drinks contain roughly the same amount, but cortado may feel stronger because it’s served in smaller portions.

Milk Preparation

The preparation of milk is what makes cortado and cappuccino distinct. Cortado uses steamed milk, while cappuccino uses equal parts of steamed milk and foamed milk.

As such, the frothed milk layer in cappuccino is thick, and you can scoop it with a spoon. Steamed milk has smaller air bubbles and creates little foam.

Cortado’s steamed milk is integrated wholly into the espresso, providing a smoother taste. Cortado vs.

Cappuccino Milk Ratio

The milk ratio distinguishes cortado from cappuccino. The ratio in cortado is symmetric, with equal portions of milk and espresso shots.

Cappuccino, on the other hand, has twice the amount of milk (steamed and foamed) than espresso. The denser milk layer in cappuccino results in the drink’s overall creamier texture and mild taste.


Cortado and cappuccino are more than just names, as there are definitive differences between the two. Their differences vary, ranging from the ingredients used, strength, taste, calories, milk preparation, and milk ratio.

Understanding the differences is essential when choosing a coffee type that suits your taste and preference. So the next time you walk into your favorite coffee shop, ask for one of these drinks’ varieties and enjoy your espresso-based beverage.

Flavor Profile

Cortado Flavor Profile

Cortados are characterized by their espresso-forward taste. This coffee has a sweet and creamy profile coupled with a milk-forward taste.

The presence of steamed milk tempers the sharply bitter flavor of the espresso without overpowering it. The taste profile in cortado is similar to that of a flat white, which is a popular espresso drink from Australia and New Zealand.

The cortados origin in Spain has influenced the way it tastes. Spaniards hold coffee in high regard, and they enjoy their coffee in small but potent doses.

The drink’s balance of sweetness and espresso flavor makes it a popular choice for coffee aficionados.

Cappuccino Flavor Profile

Cappuccinos have a creamy texture and a sweet flavor that is topped with bitter notes. The creamy texture comes from the use of steamed milk, while the bitter notes come from the espresso shots.

Cappuccinos have a rich and creamy mouthfeel that’s created by the milk foam and steamed milk. When making cappuccino, it’s essential to use the right amount of milk foam to balance the espresso shots and steamed milk.

A well-prepared cappuccino has a white layer of milk foam on top, a brown midsection of espresso, and a creamy bottom of steamed milk. The taste profile of cappuccino is similar to latte, but the use of foamed milk gives it a finer texture and makes it less sweet.

Flavor Modifications

Milk Alternatives

You can modify the flavor and nutritional value of your cortado or cappuccino by using different types of milk. For individuals who are lactose intolerant, soy, oat, or almond milk can be substituted.

Using low-fat milk or a milk alternative reduces the calorie count, making it an ideal choice for people who are watching their weight.


Many coffee lovers cannot imagine their coffee without a sweetener. Cortado and cappuccino can be sweetened using natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can be used as a sugar substitute if desired. Adding sweeteners can affect the calorie count of these drinks, so it’s important to use them in moderation.

Vanilla Syrup

A popular way to modify cortado or cappuccino’s flavor is to add vanilla syrup to the mix. Vanilla syrup has a sweet and aromatic flavor that complements the espresso and milk in these drinks.

French vanilla cappuccino is a popular coffee beverage among coffee lovers because it combines all the elements of a classic cappuccino with the sweetness of vanilla.

Caloric and Caffeine Content

Caloric Content Comparison

The calorie count in cortado and cappuccino varies depending on the type of milk and sweeteners used. Low-fat milk or milk alternatives can be used to reduce the calorie count in both drinks.

Adding syrups and flavored sweeteners can increase the calorie count significantly. A single serving of cortado contains an average of 80 calories, while a single serving of cappuccino contains around 120 calories.

Caffeine Content Comparison

Caffeine content in coffee depends on the number of espresso shots used. Cortado’s standard preparation calls for a double shot of espresso, which is the same as a doppio.

A doppio has approximately 150mg of caffeine. Cappuccino, on the other hand, usually contains two shots, which is equivalent to about 190mg of caffeine.

Many coffee shops offer an extra espresso shot option that increases the caffeine content in either drink.


The flavor profile of cortado and cappuccino is unique, and modifying them with milk alternatives, syrups, and sweeteners can elevate the sensory experience. Understanding the calorie and caffeine count in these drinks helps one make an informed choice, particularly if one is watching their dietary intake.

While the ingredients in these drinks differ, one thing is clear: both cortado and cappuccino offer a delicious and satisfying coffee experience.


In conclusion, cortado and cappuccino are two distinct espresso-based drinks that have unique flavors, strength, and aroma. When making a personal preference, the texture of the milk and the number of espresso shots in a drink can influence it.

Individuals who prefer a smooth mouthfeel and less coffee favor cappuccino, while those who prefer a stronger coffee taste prefer cortado. A barista’s recommendation is to be open-minded and try both drinks to experience the varying flavors and textures.

This is because coffee lovers might be surprised by the unexpected taste profile of either drink. Trying out new drinks can open the palate and make an individual appreciate the intricacies of coffee.

One misconception that has recently emerged is ordering cappuccino in a smaller portion (similar to a cortado). A cappuccino has a perfect balance of steamed milk, frothed milk, and espresso which doesn’t change even with smaller portions.

As such, ordering a small cappuccino is not recommended, and it is best to go for a cortado instead.

Related Coffee Comparison Articles

There are many other coffee varieties out there, and as such, there are several comparison articles that can provide an in-depth analysis of the various types. These articles can be found on coffee hubs such as Coffee Geek, Sprudge, and Perfect Daily Grind.

Readers can expand their knowledge of espresso-based drinks and discover new varieties to suit their taste and preference. Further comparison can be made between drinks like Americano and latte or macchiato, and mocha.

As the coffee industry evolves, new flavors and variations are introduced, and previous methods are refined. It is exciting to be a part of the coffee culture, and the best way for individuals to understand the trends and the taste differences of espresso-based drinks is to experience them first-hand.

In summary, cortado and cappuccino are both popular espresso-based drinks with unique flavors, strengths, and calorie counts. While cortado has a milk-forward taste with less milk and is a good option for individuals looking for strong coffee, cappuccino has a creamier texture with more milk foam and is perfect for individuals looking for a milder taste with a sweet flavor.

Moreover, modifying these drinks with milk alternatives, sweeteners, and syrup can elevate the flavors to suit different preferences. Ultimately, the best way to discover the unique taste is to try both drinks, which come highly recommended by baristas.

Bear in mind that there is a misconception about ordering a small cappuccino, which is not adequate, and a cortado would be better. By understanding the difference between espresso-based drinks, readers can expand their knowledge and appreciation for coffee culture and choose a drink that reflects their taste, style, and preference.

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